The Gymnosperm Database


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Encephalartos longifolius

(Jacq.) Lehm.

Common names

Breadpalm, broodboom (Palmer & Pitman 1972).

Taxonomic notes

Syn: Zamia longifolia Jacq. (Palmer & Pitman 1972).


Trunk often very thick trunk, up to about 3 m high, with a crown of dark or metallic green leaves that are straight, arching, or sometimes recurved towards the tips. Leaflets broad, hairy when young, up to 4 cm wide, lower margins sometimes with a few teeth. One or 2 cones are borne together, brownish-green, among the largest in the genus - up to nearly 60 cm long. The seeds are red (Palmer & Pitman 1972).

Distribution and Ecology

South Africa: "from the mountains near Uniondale eastwards to the Albany district, in the catchment of the Gamtoos and Sundays Rivers. ... [It is] a sight along the old road over the mountain from Ann's Villa to the Zuurberg Inn, boldly outlined against the bare grassy slopes. Several fine trees also grow in the Van Staden's Flower Reserve not far from Port Elizabeth" (Palmer & Pitman 1972).

Big tree





"[F]ossil remains of a cycad species, Zamites recta, much resembling it, have been found [within its range]. ... This was the first cycad seen by the early colonists pushing eastwards. This was Thunberg's breadtree; and this species almost changed the course of South African history for its seeds nearly killed General Smuts and men of a Boer commando in the eastern Cape during the Anglo-Boer War. Colonel Deneys Reitz writes in his book Commando how Smuts and his men, camping on the Suurberg, were poisoned after eating the seeds of Encephalartos altensteinii. Botanists today know that Reitz mistook the species, and that it was Thunberg's breadtree that poisoned the party" (Palmer & Pitman 1972).


See also

Jones (1993).

Last Modified 2017-12-29